Southeast Turkey wildfire kills 12 and devastates flocks

Southeast Turkey wildfire kills 12 and devastates flocks
The pro-Kurdish DEM party said that the government's intervention to quell wildfires in southeast Turkey was 'late and insufficient'.
3 min read
The wildfires in southeast Turkey affected Diyarbakir and Mardin provinces [Getty]

A huge wildfire killed 12 people and injured more than 75 as it ripped through Turkey's mainly Kurdish southeast, the health minister said on Friday.

Hundreds of animals have perished in the blaze that roared across the dry landscape.

The fire has left huge areas of charred and blackened land between the cities of Diyarbakir and Mardin, near the border with Syria.

Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said 12 people had died and 78 people suffered injuries and smoke inhalation. Five people were being treated in intensive care, he said.

Turkey's pro-Kurdish DEM party, which won many municipalities in the southeast in local elections in March, criticised the government's intervention as "late and insufficient".

As the fire spread during the night, the DEM had urged the government to send water bombers, saying fighting the blaze from the ground was "not enough".

The fire stared on Thursday and quickly threatened five villages. A new blaze broke out on Friday near the village of Ergani but was brought under control, an AFP correspondent witnessed.


Sheep, goats stricken

An AFP reporter in Diyarbakir province saw around 100 animals lying dead on the ground in the village of Koksalan.

Residents told AFP around half their flock of about 1,000 sheep and goats had perished.

A local vet, who did not want to give his name, confirmed the deaths and said many of those that survived were being treated for burns.

"We don't have very clear information on how many animals have been affected," the vet told AFPTV.

"But at the moment, just under half of the survivors will have to be slaughtered because they can't be saved."

Seracettin Bedirhanoglu, a member of the opposition CHP party and leader of the eastern Van province, described the images as "unbearable", urging vets to go to the area to help treat the wounded animals.

"They are defenceless and helpless... In every big fire, they get hurt first. I ask my veterinarian brothers and sisters: please go to the fire zone because they need you," he wrote on X.


Fire probe

Interior Minister Ali Yerlikaya blamed the fire on "stubble burning" which started late on Thursday and spread quickly in strong winds, affecting five villages.

Justice Minister Yilmaz Tunc said on the X platform that the public prosecutor's office had opened a probe into the cause of the fire.

Turkey has suffered 74 wildfires so far this year, which have ravaged 12,910 hectares (31,900 acres) of land, according to the European Forest Fire Information System (EFFIS).

In the summer of 2021, Turkey suffered major wildfires that claimed nine lives and destroyed huge swathes of forested land across its Mediterranean and Aegean coasts.

Environment and Climate
Live Story

The disaster prompted a political crisis after it emerged that Turkey had no functioning firefighting aeroplanes.

It heaped pressure on President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who was forced to accept international help.

It also prompted the government to push through Turkey's ratification of the Paris Climate Accord, becoming the last of the Group of 20 major economies to do so.

Experts say human-driven climate change is causing more frequent and more intense wildfires and other natural disasters and have warned Turkey to take measures to tackle the problem.